Thinking of getting married? One early step you might want to take is pricing out an engagement ring, or what one person could offer their partner when they propose (not to be confused with wedding rings, which a couple might exchange along with vows during their wedding ceremony). How much could you expect to spend on an engagement ring? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
Here’s more about the average cost of an engagement ring—and how to find one that you and your beloved will love and can afford.
How much should you spend on an engagement ring?
You should spend … whatever you want on an engagement ring. “From an etiquette perspective, there’s no rule that dictates what anyone should spend,” says Mariah Grumet, a New York City–based etiquette trainer and founder of Old Soul Etiquette. How much you spend on an engagement ring is “completely based off of preference,” she adds.
Not the answer you expected? That’s probably because of a mid-20th-century diamond company marketing campaign that equated the size of the diamond center stone of an engagement ring with the size of your love for your partner. A few decades later, that same diamond company set the price point for an engagement ring at 2 months’ salary as part of a marketing campaign. That became a widely shared guideline that’s still circulating, even though it’s not something anyone needs to stick to.
The old-school expectation of a man giving a woman a diamond engagement ring has also been the tradition for a while. But it doesn’t take into account same-sex marriages, higher-earning brides, and people who don’t necessarily want a diamond ring (or any ring). That’s partly why there isn’t a clear-cut answer to the question of how much to spend on an engagement ring.
Spending more than you can afford on a ring might seem like a romantic gesture, but hurting your financial future is not the stuff of great love stories. It’s generally better for the buyer to pay with money they already have, plus what they could reasonably save before the bill is due.
Average cost of an engagement ring
In 2022, couples spent an average of about $6,000 on an engagement ring, according to The Knot 2022 Real Weddings Study.1 These costs can vary greatly depending on location. For example, The Knot reports that Mid-Atlantic couples spent the most, $8,400 on average.2 That’s also where the average cost of a wedding is high. Midwestern couples spent the least, averaging around $5,200 for a ring.3 And despite the $6,000 national average, about 1 in 3 couples spent between $1,000 and $4,000 on an engagement ring.4
In addition to where you buy a ring, the 4 Cs determine how much a diamond engagement ring costs.
- Color. For white diamonds, this is a measure of how much yellow pigment shows in the stone. Colorless diamonds are rare, and the closer you get to that, the pricier the stone is.
- Clarity. Surface blemishes, or what jewelers call inclusions, minimize how much light passes through the stone, aka the clarity. The more inclusions, the lower the cost.
- Cut. Once a jeweler has a gemstone, they craft it into its most flattering shape to maximize sparkle. Prices vary among even common shapes—round, oval, and princess, for example—and depending on whether it’s cut perfectly symmetrically.
- Carat. Even though people think “stone size” when they hear “carat,” it actually refers to how much a diamond weighs. More carats usually cost more money, but a diamond with a lower carat weight could still look big depending on the color, clarity, and cut.
How much should you spend on a wedding ring?
You should spend however much you feel comfortable spending on a wedding ring; there’s no amount you “should” spend. Just don’t forget to budget for 2 of these separately from an engagement ring if you’ll both be wearing wedding rings. Luckily, a wedding band (which is the same thing as a wedding ring) doesn’t tend to run as much as an engagement ring.
Average cost of a wedding ring
The Knot found that the average cost of a wedding ring was $550 for men and $1,100 for women in 2021, the most recent year this data was collected.5
Why don’t people spend as much on weddings bands as engagement rings? Wedding bands tend to be simpler. They’re not as likely to feature a big diamond, and they might not have any gemstones at all. Styles that coordinate with an engagement ring might be more expensive than simple metal bands. For example, if there are side stones on an engagement ring, similar ones might run around an entire wedding band to match, and that makes the wedding ring price spike.
Another cost factor: the band’s metal. The least expensive ones tend to be titanium, tungsten, and silver. But there might not be a huge cost difference between these and mid-range options because some metals, namely silver, might be plated with more-expensive rhodium to protect it from scratches and tarnishing over time.
Mid-range precious metals such as yellow, white, and rose gold also might not bust your budget, though they’re not as well-priced as the above. Gold doesn’t tarnish as quickly as silver, making it a lower-maintenance choice.
The most expensive wedding rings are made of platinum. This sturdy metal tends to stay nice-looking over time, which is why it’s a popular—if pricier—choice. An alternative: palladium, which looks like platinum, but is less dense and therefore more affordable.
How to save money on wedding and engagement rings
Even though these pieces of jewelry could be very expensive, there are ways to manage costs. Consider the following steps.
Make a budget
Determine how much you can afford to spend. Start with what you’ve already saved, if anything. Would your current savings pay for a ring you’d both be happy with? If not, look at how much you can set aside per paycheck and how long it would take to save up enough for that ring. Then, you’ll have a rough idea of your engagement ring budget and buying timeline—or motivation to choose a lower-priced ring. It’s not wise to go into debt to buy a ring, even if the one you can afford isn’t the most extravagant.
Consider alternative gems and metals
A flawless diamond set on a platinum band is a classic choice—for a high cost. You already know about more cost-effective metals. Luckily, you have more options than just diamonds for a center stone. Colored gems, such as rubies, emeralds, and sapphires, could be less expensive than diamonds and more distinctive. If you’re buying a ring for your partner, talk with them first about what they’d want it to look like before you assume they’ll gladly wear a bright-red stone. If your partner has their heart set on a diamond ring, a lab-grown diamond could save a lot of money, if they don’t mind the faux factor.
Like any other big purchase, comparing multiple sellers’ prices could help you find the best deal. You also might want to consider timing your purchase to sale days. There might be discounts on Black Friday and in the couple weeks ahead of Valentine’s Day. Just remember that your ring might not be ready for a few days to a few weeks after you buy it, since it could take time to produce, size, and deliver it. Allow even more time if it’s a custom piece.
Bundle your engagement and wedding rings
An IRL jeweler might be willing to give you a package deal if you buy all the rings from them instead of just an engagement ring or just the wedding rings. The deal might be even sweeter if you buy other jewelry, whether for the wedding or not, through this same retailer.
A ring choice that’s meaningful to you might not stop other people from sharing their opinions. If someone gives anything less than a compliment on the engagement ring (or any other aspect of your wedding), Grumet suggests you say, “Thank you so much for your perspective on that, but we have decided to do this.” It’s a polite way to set boundaries.
And remember: Engagement and wedding rings are a symbol of your commitment, not the commitment itself. A smaller engagement ring center stone doesn’t mean a smaller love or a shorter marriage. Keeping that in mind could help you make the best financial decisions for your rings.